Find out more about our world famous Textile Conservation Studio
The Textile Conservation Studio was established in May 1990 at our Princess Street site in Manchester to conserve the museum’s extensive collection of banners, provide a source of help and advice for custodians of textiles, and undertake private commissions. A new conservation lab was built as part of the museum’s redevelopment project in 2010. Situated on the second floor, the Studio was designed so that visitors to the museum can see our skilled conservators at work through a viewing area in Main Gallery Two. We also run quarterly tours for members of the public to come inside for a closer look behind the scenes! Check out our What’s On pages for information on future events. Group bookings and private tours are also welcome; for further information or to book a tour, please phone the Learning Team on 0161 838 9190 or use the Learning enquiry form.
The Studio offers facilities including solvent extraction, wet cleaning floor, flexible work tables, separate dye lab and Studio hoist for photographing and checking textiles after treatment. We also have a mechanical hoist which allows us to safely transport rolled textiles up to 4.8 meters long in and out of the building. The Studio is environmentally controlled as is the secure object store which is housed within the Studio space.
Our Conservation Team is led by a by an accredited member of Icon (Institute of Conservation) and we are listed on the Conservation Register. With our base in Manchester we can provide services for the North West region but are able to work on projects nationwide. In the past the Studio has worked for other museums, corporate clients, trusts, charities and individuals. The flexibility of the space means we often deal with a diverse range of textiles from painted, printed, woven and knitted textiles, embroideries and modern materials. We can accommodate large flat textiles such as guild and trade union banners, religious textiles, flags, furnishing fabrics, quilts and other domestic textiles in addition to large scale contemporary artworks. We also treat needlework, samplers, costume and accessories, military, Masonic and friendly society objects.
As part of the service we produce estimates prior to work being carried out, followed by detailed, post treatment documentation including photographs. Examples of the sort of treatments we undertake range from surface cleaning, wet cleaning and humidification (removing creases), to adhesive treatments, consolidation of paint layers and stitch supports with specially dyed fabrics. See the Case Studies page for further examples of work undertaken in the Studio.
Another important aspect of our work is technical mounting for display. This is usually agreed as part of the conservation because the way an object is supported will affect its ongoing condition. We offer professional mounting of costume on conservation grade mannequins or bespoke forms and can arrange framing of two dimensional pieces. We also prepare supports for three dimensional objects such as accessories including multi-purpose mounts which can also be used for storage.
We can also undertake on site work in historic interiors and consultancy work, offering advice on preventive care of collections including re-packing and storage projects, insect pest management, conservation surveys and planning.
Although the banners in our collection may have once been seen as ‘working’ objects, many are now very fragile and can be quite challenging to care for. Textiles are vulnerable objects as they can be damaged by light, dust, extremes in environmental conditions and even hanging under their own weight when on display. For this reason, once a year some of the most delicate banners on display in the museum galleries are changed so that we can preserve the objects and exhibit more of our collection. The process of changing banners is very time consuming because each one has to be carefully lowered off display and checked for damage before being packed away for storage. Banners selected for display must be thoroughly checked and often conserved before they are ready to install. For more information on this aspect of our work see our banners page. We offer public guided tours of the new selection of banners on display at the beginning of each year; check out our What’s On pages for information on future events.
The Textile Conservation Studio has hosted a number of students on placement from conservation courses across the country and post graduate internships. Updates about the work of the Studio can be found on the news and blog pages. You can also watch banner conservation in action on the museum’s YouTube channel.
Sent out approximately every two months.